Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan, is a classic, remarkable play. Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh), a faded, southern beauty who loses her last shot of happiness, aided by her offensively vulgar brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando). The entire story, as well as the other characters, is painted with larger underlying concepts or themes.
Desire is obviously the central theme of the play, hence the name. Blanche desperately tries to deny her desires; however, desire is the emotion that motivates and drives her, quite literally in fact, when her desire causes her to be driven out of town. Blanche cannot figure out the right way of handling her feelings; she is constantly either restraining or chasing her desire. Also, desire is the heart of Stella's (Kim Hunter) and Stanley's relationship, not including true intimacy.
Another significant theme deals with Blanche and her fantasies. Blanche dwells in illusion, which inadvertently is her key means of self-defense. Blanche's treachery comes from her foremost weakness: inability to confront the truth face-to-face. She tells things, as they ought to be, not as they are. Her fantasies are therapeutic, which protects her from the tragedies she has had to endure. However, Stanley ultimately shatters her illusions. In the end of the play but not the movie, Stella also resorts to fantasy: Stella creates an illusion that Blanche is lying about Stanley.
Primitive and primal behavior is a third theme that is very powerful and significant to the story. Blanche often speaks of Stanley as ape-like and primitive. Stanley represents a romantic idea of an unrefined man untouched by civilization and its influences; on the other hand, Stanley's unrefined nature is far from romantic. Stanley's physical appeal is obvious to both Stella and Blanche, who cannot resist him. Blanche, even though repulsed, is nonetheless drawn to him. Yet, his desire for what is wants is shocking because it is so raw so that he does not think twice about torturing or raping Blanche.
Desire, illusion, and primitiveness are three of the most important themes of this play. All intertwined together produce this incredibly dramatic performance of all the characters; the end result being one of the greatest plays of all time.